It Takes a Village to Raise Bullies

I’m beginning to believe that bullying is not a problem of two parents and a child; it seems to be a problem of entire communities.

When a bully named Scott targeted me in junior high (middle school), it wasn’t just him. It was Scott, his six friends and the school’s principal.

One day, Scott informed me during the bus ride to school that he wanted to beat me up. His anger toward me was intense, but I never knew why.

Word got out by late morning that there was going to be a big fight off campus. Being shy at that age, I had told no one.

Toward the afternoon, the principal caught me in the hallway and told me that if I fought, I’d be suspended or thrown out of school. I told him that I didn’t want to fight, but that Scott and company planned to gang up on me at my bus stop.

“That’s your problem,” the principal said. “Just get out of the fight.”

I told the principal that if I avoided the fight, I’d be a target for the rest of the school year. The principal again told me that was my problem.

There was no kindness or concern in this man’s heart. He was just worried about the school’s image.

All during the bus ride home, I was taunted by Scott and his gang, mostly weak boys emboldened by Scott’s cockiness. I knew that if I fought Scott, they would never bother me again.

But despite my shyness, I loved school. I wasn’t about to get suspended or thrown out.

I also was the strongest runner in my school. So two stops before my own, I jumped off the bus and ran home.

Scott and his gang missed their chance. To my surprise, no one bothered me much for the next few weeks.

Then, while passing one of Scott’s lackeys in a vestibule where no one was present, Jan knocked all of the books out of my hands. The boy laughed, saying he “owned” me. “Wimp.”

Without thinking, I punched Jan in the chest, knocking him against the wall. I watched him slide to the floor completely winded. No one from Scott’s gang ever bothered me again.

After that, Jan stopped hanging around with Scott. The boy would even move to the other side of the hallway whenever he saw me.

But to be honest, I lucked out. I think Scott was having other problems that made him forget about me. In the end, I was more angry with the school principal.

Still, my experiences were nothing compared with what is happening to Billy White in Arkansas. This boy gets beat up on a regular basis, and the school has completely failed to stop the cruelty, reports The New York Times.

Several of the incidents, which have required stitches, were even caught on video. The Times posted photos of Billy’s abused body.

Perhaps most disconcerting to me is that Billy’s parents let him continue on at the school. I mean, there’s fighting the good fight, but Billy, who already suffers from learning disabilities, is growing up fearful of education.

Why does this family want to stay in a community complicit with torturing this boy? Some of the students even “started a Facebook page called ‘Every One That Hates Billy Wolfe.’ ”

After one incident, a school official refused to call police, saying Billy got what he deserved. Another school official complained that Billy’s demeanor was to blame. Gee, do you think a boy who has been getting attacked since he was 12 and fears going to school is going to act normal?

No, most of us know what the real problem is: parents and communities that encourage kids to pick on the weak like a pack of hyenas.

17 thoughts on “It Takes a Village to Raise Bullies

  1. Art

    This makes me sick. I think most parents/children will experience bullying at some point in their lives. In my opinion, it is best to attack it head on and immediately. Getting the school involved is key. Of course, that assumes the school administration isn’t part of the problem.
    My heart goes out to Billy and here’s hoping all the attention will get the school and his parents to behave in a way that is best for Billy.
    All the best

    Reply
  2. Bkbuds

    Okay, I was bullied for being the smart kid, and I have lasting self-esteem issues. Especially since my brothers also taunted me and said unbelievably thoughtless and even cruel things. There was literally nowhere I could go–home and school were both hazardous.
    This boy’s parents must change his school, yes. But my first thought was “why don’t they get him Judo or Tai Kwan Do lessons?” The kid doesn’t stand a chance if he doesn’t learn to fight back.
    It’s be cheaper than whatever they’re paying their lawyer.

    Reply
  3. Philip

    I tolerated a lot of abuse when I was a kid, and I fought/planned/avoided/out-thought my various tormentors for years (and this was in a prestigious private school – I can only imagine how much worse it is in the public schools) until there were none left.
    I know that I will be very involved (and I ask careful questions of my two elementary-age kids) in my kids’ schooling to both keep them one step ahead of such bullying, and to make sure they never conduct, or through inaction condone, such intolerance.

    Reply
  4. Phil

    I was mentally scarred by several years of junior high bullying.
    Letting your kids get bullied, even a little bit, has no positive outcome. My father-in-law once told me that it “toughens them up.” That’s probably what these administrators are thinking.
    Will we be surprised when Billy brings a gun to school and starts shooting the place up?

    Reply
  5. brettdl

    Philip: Sorry to hear you’ve been through it too. We also keep close vigil over our kids on this issue.
    Phil: I always hated that “toughens them up” line, especially when it comes to bullies. (For those of my readers who don’t know, Phil wisely home-schools his kids.)

    Reply
  6. Grace

    I try to keep tabs on the Princess’ situation at school. I was bullied a bit in junior high, so I know how it feels to be on the ‘receiving’ side of things.

    Reply
  7. Mark Sicignano

    I was bullied a handful of times by kids in grammer school and jr. high. But I fought back. I didn’t get teachers, principles or parents involved.
    Some incidents escalated from some verbal abuse or teasing, to threats of them fighting me. In each case, what I did was ignore it for a short while, but ultimately I “took control” and got into a fight with the kids that were bulling me.
    My understanding of bullies is that most of them are really cowards. When confronted, they will back off.
    I don’t think I saw anything about Billy that says that he every confronted the bullies. Sounds like he gets hit and then he’s waiting for somebody else to stand up for him. The Principle, his parents, who knows. Is anybody advocating that this kid stick up for himself and give these kids a fight?
    After I’ve confronted my bullies by taking control of them, they backed off complete and treated me with respect.
    Sure, I got a couple of detentions or in-school suspensions, but my parents talked to the principle and me, I’d say, “Am I in trouble?”. “No. You’re OK. Just do the suspension and move on.”
    When Billy was 12 and this started, had he managed to punch one of these bullies squarely in the nose, it might have ended then.
    What if Billy were to come up behind one of these kids, in a classroom, or in a hallway, and without the kid seeing it, whale one of them upside the head and follow it up with a stern warning of “I’m not going to take your crap. Got it!”
    It could make the difference instead of expecting somebody else to protect him. And when Billy is an adult, who’s going to protect him from the bullies then.
    I actually worked for a bully boss once. If you didn’t stand up to him, he walked all over you. If you did stand up to him, he’d back down and treat you with respect. (No I never had to punch my boss in the nose, but as an adult, you have a wider range of options to deal with bully bosses.)
    Opie and the Bully, was a good episode from the Andy Griffith show. Andy as the sheriff could have gotten involved, but he realized that it would not teach his son to stand up for himself and to deal with his problems head on. His advice, give the bully a bit of his own right back and then some. Opie does, and the bully now respects him and knows not to mess with Opie anymore. And Opie no longer feels powerless and at the mercy of the bully.
    I’d rather see Billy resort to physical defence against his bully aggressors and put an early end to this, because I think the alternative could be letting rage build up in him and him bringing a gun to school and taking it out on a lot of innocent people in a far worse way.

    Reply
  8. brettdl

    Mark, I think you make great points. Most of us had to learn how to deal with bullies on our own terms.
    But, this boy is learning disabled. He may not have full capacity to respond. That wasn’t fully addressed in the story.
    Also, many kids won’t fight back if their parents taught them not to, or if they don’t feel they have the support of their parents. I’ve known children who were taught peace at all costs, which as you say, may be the wrong choice but very hard for a child to change if it is a lifelong lesson.

    Reply
  9. Mark Sicignano

    Ya, not sure how his disability comes into play either. Could be the case. Thanks for pointing that out Brett.
    But your last paragraph kind of brings it back to the idea that maybe bullying does come back to just two parents and one child.
    If parents are raising child with a “peace at all costs” core belief that revolves around pacifism… well… The kid will be ill-prepared for the real world. As I pointed out, bullies just don’t exist on the playground or school bus. They’re in the work place, at the mall, some become cops, many become spouses, and some even lead nations.
    For the record, I’m totally a “peace at all costs” person. I just realize that some of the costs might involve my kid punching another kid in the nose and him having to pay the price of a few days suspended from school. 🙂
    I’ve told my kids that the should first resort to other means of resolving the issue and to warn the person to stop, but if the bullying continues, that they are entitled to defend themselves physically. I’ve also made it clear that I would never tolerate them being aggressive or hitting in any other non-defensive situations.
    Bullies suck.

    Reply
  10. Cappy

    My daughter had some problems last fall with three guys. Big, tough guy that threatened her.
    Now for the feelings part.
    I feel like I would like to damage these guys’ self esteem.
    I feel like I would like to inflict mental scarring.
    I feel like a lot of other things too.
    Unfortunately, since I’m divorced I only found out about it after the school handled it. They handled it. The did not fix it.
    These asswads don’t give her grief any more. But they have moved on to easier targets. One day and I hope soon they’ll pick the wrong one. And where I live it probably won’t be resolved in the parking lot with fists.

    Reply
  11. single dad

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed. Really a nice post here!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

It Takes a Village to Raise Bullies

I’m beginning to believe that bullying is not a problem of two parents and a child; it seems to be a problem of entire communities.

When a bully named Scott targeted me in junior high (middle school), it wasn’t just him. It was Scott, his six friends and the school’s principal.

One day, Scott informed me during the bus ride to school that he wanted to beat me up. His anger toward me was intense, but I never knew why.

Word got out by late morning that there was going to be a big fight off campus. Being shy at that age, I had told no one.

Toward the afternoon, the principal caught me in the hallway and told me that if I fought, I’d be suspended or thrown out of school. I told him that I didn’t want to fight, but that Scott and company planned to gang up on me at my bus stop.

“That’s your problem,” the principal said. “Just get out of the fight.”

(more…)

17 thoughts on “It Takes a Village to Raise Bullies

  1. Art

    This makes me sick. I think most parents/children will experience bullying at some point in their lives. In my opinion, it is best to attack it head on and immediately. Getting the school involved is key. Of course, that assumes the school administration isn’t part of the problem.
    My heart goes out to Billy and here’s hoping all the attention will get the school and his parents to behave in a way that is best for Billy.
    All the best

    Reply
  2. Bkbuds

    Okay, I was bullied for being the smart kid, and I have lasting self-esteem issues. Especially since my brothers also taunted me and said unbelievably thoughtless and even cruel things. There was literally nowhere I could go–home and school were both hazardous.
    This boy’s parents must change his school, yes. But my first thought was “why don’t they get him Judo or Tai Kwan Do lessons?” The kid doesn’t stand a chance if he doesn’t learn to fight back.
    It’s be cheaper than whatever they’re paying their lawyer.

    Reply
  3. Philip

    I tolerated a lot of abuse when I was a kid, and I fought/planned/avoided/out-thought my various tormentors for years (and this was in a prestigious private school – I can only imagine how much worse it is in the public schools) until there were none left.
    I know that I will be very involved (and I ask careful questions of my two elementary-age kids) in my kids’ schooling to both keep them one step ahead of such bullying, and to make sure they never conduct, or through inaction condone, such intolerance.

    Reply
  4. Phil

    I was mentally scarred by several years of junior high bullying.
    Letting your kids get bullied, even a little bit, has no positive outcome. My father-in-law once told me that it “toughens them up.” That’s probably what these administrators are thinking.
    Will we be surprised when Billy brings a gun to school and starts shooting the place up?

    Reply
  5. brettdl

    Philip: Sorry to hear you’ve been through it too. We also keep close vigil over our kids on this issue.
    Phil: I always hated that “toughens them up” line, especially when it comes to bullies. (For those of my readers who don’t know, Phil wisely home-schools his kids.)

    Reply
  6. Grace

    I try to keep tabs on the Princess’ situation at school. I was bullied a bit in junior high, so I know how it feels to be on the ‘receiving’ side of things.

    Reply
  7. Mark Sicignano

    I was bullied a handful of times by kids in grammer school and jr. high. But I fought back. I didn’t get teachers, principles or parents involved.
    Some incidents escalated from some verbal abuse or teasing, to threats of them fighting me. In each case, what I did was ignore it for a short while, but ultimately I “took control” and got into a fight with the kids that were bulling me.
    My understanding of bullies is that most of them are really cowards. When confronted, they will back off.
    I don’t think I saw anything about Billy that says that he every confronted the bullies. Sounds like he gets hit and then he’s waiting for somebody else to stand up for him. The Principle, his parents, who knows. Is anybody advocating that this kid stick up for himself and give these kids a fight?
    After I’ve confronted my bullies by taking control of them, they backed off complete and treated me with respect.
    Sure, I got a couple of detentions or in-school suspensions, but my parents talked to the principle and me, I’d say, “Am I in trouble?”. “No. You’re OK. Just do the suspension and move on.”
    When Billy was 12 and this started, had he managed to punch one of these bullies squarely in the nose, it might have ended then.
    What if Billy were to come up behind one of these kids, in a classroom, or in a hallway, and without the kid seeing it, whale one of them upside the head and follow it up with a stern warning of “I’m not going to take your crap. Got it!”
    It could make the difference instead of expecting somebody else to protect him. And when Billy is an adult, who’s going to protect him from the bullies then.
    I actually worked for a bully boss once. If you didn’t stand up to him, he walked all over you. If you did stand up to him, he’d back down and treat you with respect. (No I never had to punch my boss in the nose, but as an adult, you have a wider range of options to deal with bully bosses.)
    Opie and the Bully, was a good episode from the Andy Griffith show. Andy as the sheriff could have gotten involved, but he realized that it would not teach his son to stand up for himself and to deal with his problems head on. His advice, give the bully a bit of his own right back and then some. Opie does, and the bully now respects him and knows not to mess with Opie anymore. And Opie no longer feels powerless and at the mercy of the bully.
    I’d rather see Billy resort to physical defence against his bully aggressors and put an early end to this, because I think the alternative could be letting rage build up in him and him bringing a gun to school and taking it out on a lot of innocent people in a far worse way.

    Reply
  8. brettdl

    Mark, I think you make great points. Most of us had to learn how to deal with bullies on our own terms.
    But, this boy is learning disabled. He may not have full capacity to respond. That wasn’t fully addressed in the story.
    Also, many kids won’t fight back if their parents taught them not to, or if they don’t feel they have the support of their parents. I’ve known children who were taught peace at all costs, which as you say, may be the wrong choice but very hard for a child to change if it is a lifelong lesson.

    Reply
  9. Mark Sicignano

    Ya, not sure how his disability comes into play either. Could be the case. Thanks for pointing that out Brett.
    But your last paragraph kind of brings it back to the idea that maybe bullying does come back to just two parents and one child.
    If parents are raising child with a “peace at all costs” core belief that revolves around pacifism… well… The kid will be ill-prepared for the real world. As I pointed out, bullies just don’t exist on the playground or school bus. They’re in the work place, at the mall, some become cops, many become spouses, and some even lead nations.
    For the record, I’m totally a “peace at all costs” person. I just realize that some of the costs might involve my kid punching another kid in the nose and him having to pay the price of a few days suspended from school. 🙂
    I’ve told my kids that the should first resort to other means of resolving the issue and to warn the person to stop, but if the bullying continues, that they are entitled to defend themselves physically. I’ve also made it clear that I would never tolerate them being aggressive or hitting in any other non-defensive situations.
    Bullies suck.

    Reply
  10. Cappy

    My daughter had some problems last fall with three guys. Big, tough guy that threatened her.
    Now for the feelings part.
    I feel like I would like to damage these guys’ self esteem.
    I feel like I would like to inflict mental scarring.
    I feel like a lot of other things too.
    Unfortunately, since I’m divorced I only found out about it after the school handled it. They handled it. The did not fix it.
    These asswads don’t give her grief any more. But they have moved on to easier targets. One day and I hope soon they’ll pick the wrong one. And where I live it probably won’t be resolved in the parking lot with fists.

    Reply
  11. single dad

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed. Really a nice post here!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *